SPARTA, Ky. -- Every season, NASCAR honors United States military members with its annual "NASCAR: An American Salute" initiative, calling attention to and honoring the men and women who protect our country.
The initiative runs from the Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to next weekend's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway during July 4 festivities. It rallies teams, tracks, fans and partners to collectively honor active and retired service members and military families.
Showing their true American colors -- or camouflage, in this case -- David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports and Love's Travel Stops joined together Thursday afternoon at a Love's Travel Stop just outside of Kentucky Speedwayto unveil the No. 38 Ford Fusion the veteran will drive in next weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
"With Love's commitment to the military and the support they do for the military and obviously our love for the military, it just all came together," Gilliland said. "While they were working on the paint scheme, everybody at Front Row coming up with ideas, we got to see a couple of different renderings. I think this one looks awesome and we're looking forward to running it next week at Daytona.
"Really want to take a second and thank all the men and women in our military that sacrifice so much and have given so much dedication to protecting our freedom and protecting this great country that we live in. So, thank you guys very much for all you do and continue to do. We love our troops and that's something that we're very proud of."
With some help from Florence (Kentucky) Army Recruiting Center members Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Miller, Staff Sgt. Kent Martin, Staff Sgt. Cody Street and Staff Sgt. Michael Sheets, Gilliland was able to showcase his ride in front of a thrilled crowd before signing autographs for fans. The most important autographs signed on the afternoon, however, weren't done with Gilliland's penmanship.
Each of the attending servicemen took a Sharpie to the hood of the No. 38, something Gilliland hopes will inspire his team (currently 31st in points) at Daytona.
Combined with his past history at restrictor-plate tracks -- three of his four career top-five finishes have come at Daytona and Talladega -- things are looking good.
"It would be an honor for sure (to put this car in Victory Lane). It's an honor just to drive it. To go to a place where we have a legitimate shot of winning is even better. Now having some of our military members sign the hood; having their autographs on the car and riding with me, it'd be extra, extra special."